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Have you ever heard the phrase “male gaze” before? When you read reviews of a film after you have seen it, it is important to be objective. It is a term that is frequently used while addressing the male perspectives represented in various works of art.

What is Male Gaze?

The term “Male Gaze” was coined and first described in the 1970s by filmmaker and theorist Laura Malvey in a research piece titled Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, which was published in the journal Visual Pleasure.

First of all, male gaze theory is a result of patriarchy. Malvey purposed an important notion of male gaze

“In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female form which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness.”

Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure And Narrative Cinema

Female characters are positioned and portrayed in a way that fulfills heterosexual male desire in a visually appealing way. Female characters are also frequently portrayed as inferior and passive, whereas male characters are shown as superior and active.

The male gaze, on the other hand, does more than establish the idea that women must be docile. On a number of occasions, male gaze spreads toxic masculinity idea and misogyny idea, and how men typically view women as a sexual object, which leads to normalization of negative thoughts or behaviors toward women, particularly those stereotyped female characteristics in media, which causes audiences to mistakenly assimilate the false image of women to become their false perception of women.

Because of sexual inequality, men gain more opportunity in career than women. It causes men to have more opportunity to be media creators on multiple platforms than women, whether it be film, advertisement, novel, comic, or animation. That’s why multiple types of media are infiltrated by male gaze and male gaze is so influential since the past until nowadays.  

Fairy Tale /

Does male gaze appears in anime?

There’s no doubt about it! For a long time, the patriarchy has been entrenched in Japanese social culture and society. The principles of patriarchy are deeply ingrained in Japanese culture and society today. One of the most major reasons why patriarchy has been so deeply ingrained in Japanese culture is the influence of Confucianism, which is highly valued throughout East Asia. In particular, the attitude of men in the older generation, known in Japan as the Kandai no Sedai (Baby Boomer generation), toward women is concerning. They believe that typical “decent” women must be unobtrusive, behave like a housewife, must always assist men, and that women are not allowed to voice their own thoughts or feelings.

This idea has also been influenced by many generations; additionally, the fact that the majority of famous Japanese manga or anime artists are males makes manga and anime full of looking at and portraying femininity through the eyes of a male artist for male audiences. The characteristics of female characters always came from men’s imagination.

In manga or anime, the main characters are usually always male, and female characters are either supportive characters for the male protagonists or characters who respond to the demands of the male characters and male audiences, notably sexual desires and the female characters are willing to gather around the male protagonist, then they are only interested in the male protagonist. This characteristic of male gaze always appears in Harem anime and manga. 

The usage of camera angles in the same way as men sexually stare at female bodies is one of the most visible characteristics of male gaze that we have observed thus far. Also the inclusion of sequences that are not directly related to the main point of the story, but which male artists frequently add these scenes in order to please the desire of male audiences. Alternatively, include sexual harassment scenes, but a lot of anime and manga tend to romanticize sexual harassment behavior to demonstrate that it is acceptable for male protagonists to whether purposefully or unintentionally sexually touch female characters without their consent and design tight and too much revealing clothes for the female characters or even let the female characters engage in unnecessary nudity scenes for no apparent reason. 

In Japanese society, the age of consent, or the minimum age at which an individual is legally mature enough to consent to sexual activity by oneself, is a contentious issue. Because the legal age of consent in Japan is only 13 years old. Because of their lack of experience, the 13-year-old children are still immature, lack discernment, and effective judgment. Furthermore, the majority of the female characters who might be offensive by the problematic behavivor or involve in sexual activity are minors, meaning they are under the age of 18, however, it is acceptable in Japan due to the age of consent in there.  

Examples of controversial anime

Anime Title : High School of the Dead

High School of the Dead

Brief plot summary : The world is over taken with a deadly disease that turns people who got bitten into zombies. In Japan, a group of students and the school nurse are gathering and trying to survive the widespread chaos. – source anime news network

Example of Problematic scene : 

  • Misconceptions about female anatomy are created by the design of exaggerated breasts that easily shake like water balloons, despite the fact that the size of female’s breasts correlates with their body size and the breasts are muscle of the human body, so the breasts can not obviously move like in the video clip. 
  • The way the camera is slowly panning the bullet below a female character’s legs and through her breasts.      
Anime Title : Shokugeki No Soma

Shokugeki No Soma

Brief plot summary : a boy named Yukihira Soma , whose dream is to become a full time chef in his father’s restaurant and surpass his father’s culinary skills – source wikifandom

Example of problematic scenes : 

  • This anime tends to depict how the female characters express their feelings or emotions while tasting the food, which could be interpreted as the food turning them on.
Anime Title : Jobless Reincarnation

Mushoku Tensei : Jobless Reincarnation

Brief plot summary : After being hit by a truck and dying, a hopeless and jobless Japanese man reincarnates into a fantasy-like world as Rudeus, son of the swordsman Paul Greyrat and his wife, the healer Zenith. Keeping his memories of his previous life, Rudeus quickly learns to read and eventually starts practicing magic. – source wikifandom

Example of problematic scenes : 

  • There is sexual relationship between he and a female character who is under 13 years old.  This scene causes controversy among the audiences that they should consider whether the protagonist intentionally deprived a child, relating to pedophilia, or not because even though his physical age is around 10 years old, the mentally age of the male protagonist is 30 years old. 
  • He romantically interested his mother, then encouraged his father to cheat on his mom.
  • The female maid who was raped by his father tried to seduce the rapist and willing to be a mistress. It romanticizes the consequence of rape is love; that is unacceptable.
  • Although this practice is not vital to the plot; it is only a fanservice scene, there is a scene where the female teacher who had her panties taken by the protagonist masturbates.
Anime Title : My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia

Brief plot summary : In a world populated with superhumans, the superhero-loving Izuku Midoriya is without power. However, after the Quirkless dreamer Izuku inherits the powers of the world’s best superhero, All Might, his hopes of becoming the top hero are now possible. Once enrolled in the high school for heroes to  learn what it really means to be a hero, U.A., Izuku soon discovers being a hero is much more complicated than it appears. – source imdb

Example of Problematic scenes : 

  • A male character called Minoru Mineta who has an extremely perverted personality. He used to look stealthy, peep show, when female characters took a shower. 
  • But the artist decides to portray his problematic personality in a humorous way and his actions have not been punished.
  • Design too revealing outfit for a woman hero, regardless of consider that kind of outfit does not suit for hero occupation

Consequence of Male Gaze in Anime

the comments on TikTok support Minoru Mineta’s personality

Male gaze not only creates a stereotypical image of women, but it also normalizes sexual harassment or emphasizes how the man only sees the woman as a sexual object, whereas the woman is willing to be a sexual object. Male gaze causes the viewers who lack discretion to easily misinterpret female characteristics.

For example, many anime-related Facebook pages frequently publish content that is offensive to female characters, such as sexual harassment. The majority of followers also consider the problematic contents to be normal and make fun of them by commenting.

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